The employment application is an important part of the hiring process, for it provides employers with clear and relevant information about applicants. An application is also a legal document and it becomes a part of a person's permanent file once they are hired. For this reason, the employment application must be thoroughly and carefully reviewed by a qualified attorney before it is used.


Applications contain questions designed to help the employer make a hiring decision. In essence, they reorganize the information the employer typically finds on a resume while also furnishing additional information that can be helpful in making hiring decisions. Application contents typically include the following:

* Name, address, phone number, and other relevant contact information.
* Position the applicant is seeking within the company.
* Hours of availability.
* Expected salary.
* Past experience—This will make up the majority of the application form, for it is common for companies to request a listing of all positions that an applicant has held over the past three to five years. This section may include a request for supervisor names and reasons for leaving previous positions.
* Educational background—This typically includes schools attended, years attended and degrees attained.
* Other information—This might include questions about the applicant's experience with computer software programs and other office equipment, or it might ask the person to describe hobbies and other interests. This section of the application can be a tricky one for employers, as some questions may violate legal parameters. A good rule of thumb for small business owners weighing whether to include questions of this type is to always make sure that the responses could be pertinent to making a hiring decision.
* Closing statement—The statement at the end of an application usually includes legally worded information for the applicant about the application, including permissible uses of the information contained therein. The employer should mention that they are an equal opportunity employer on the document, and legal experts recommend that employment applications include a statement regarding the right of the hiring company to check references and verify information on the application. The employer should state clearly that falsifying any information on an application can be considered grounds for dismissal.
* Signature of applicant.

Because there are many other types of information that a company may want to ask on its application, depending on the business which is designing the form, it is always advisable to have legal counsel review the form before using it for applicants.


There are several possible pitfalls in designing an application form. On an application form, it is not permissible to pursue any of the following lines of questioning:

* Questions about the applicant's age, race, sex, religion, national origin, physical characteristics, or other personal information that violates Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines.
* Questions about the applicant's health history or handicaps (if any) that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
* Questions that violating any state regulations (individual states may have regulations concerning employer rights to inquire about past salary history, referral sources, credit, access to transportation, or personal emergency information). It is important to check for state guidelines in employment applications before putting together a business application.


The application should be given to every person applying for a position from outside the company. It should be required regardless of level of position, so that all potential employees have a similar experience and receive similar treatment. Normally, a separate, abbreviated application form is used for people who are already employed by the company who wish to apply for positions elsewhere within the company.

Some laws require employers to retain applications—whether the person is hired or not—for up to one year after the date the application is made. The employer is not usually required to reconsider the applications on file as new positions become available, but they must have record of the applications made to the company. Applications become a part of the permanent record of the employee once hired. Increasingly, these employee records are held in electronic files.

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